Punk fashion was born in the 1970s from the subculture of punk rock, a rebuttal which reflected perceived pretensions and excesses in mainstream music, and subsequently mainstream culture in general, characterized by anti-materialism. Punk has been associated with anti-establishment and rebellion and punk clothing has come to represent a distinct social dress code of art movements and other subcultures.
Greasers, mods, glam rock, and rude boys have been influenced by punk fashion expressed as resistance to authoritarianism and the establishment. Punk has been commercialized even by renowned fashion designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood. Initially handmade, punk clothes were first sold in specialty stores but have been mass-produced by the 1980s.
Punk Style 101
How do you get started into the punk rock clothing style? Black is the predominant color of punk but if you want some color, a few splashes of neon such as orange, apple green, lemon yellow or fuchsia are acceptable. You will need punk staples, of course, but if you don’t have any idea on what constitutes a punk’s wardrobe, here is Punk Style 101, a list on which you can build one around using the following items:
- Cargo or skinny jeans.
- Black shirts or t-shirts.
- Patches of punk bands.
- Spiked bracelets.
- Mesh or ripped mesh.
- Biker leather jackets.
- Safety pins or tape holding ripped clothing together.
- Worn-out black leather jackets.
- Studded clothing.
- Black denim vests.
- Animal prints.
- T-shirts emblazoned with punk bands.
- Bullet belts.
- Militaristic shirts, jackets, pants, etc.
- Fishnet stockings.
- Bleached-splattered denims.
- T-shirts with printed political statements.
- Motorcycle, combat or Dr. Martens boots for footwear.
- Camouflage jackets, t-shirts, pants, shorts, jeans, etc.
- Distressed black denim.
In addition, punk rock clothing can include embellishments like zippers sewn on the back of one or both legs, stars, fake blood stains, spikes, pyramid studs, and safety pins, kilts, bondage belts, painted-on symbols for anarchy or some other anti-tyranny sign, chains, sewn-on metal rings, bondage pants, tartans, and black leg warmers also sewn with shiny details.
There are several styles of punk when it comes to fashion. Even with a clash over some ideals, punks agree on fundamentals such as belief in alternatives, self-expression, non-conformity, independence, and resistance. Punk subculture has several factions that have different ideas of what makes stylish fashion, albeit there are crossovers between subgroups. Take a look at some of the most common and widely worn punk styles.
This style includes drainpipe jeans, satin shirts, platform boots, metallic silver jumpsuits, leather-studded jackets, neon colors, chains, spandex, kipper ties, leopard or other “big cat” animal prints, pirate shirts with ruffles, fishnet stockings, and ruffled brocade.
Anarcho punks wear imitation leather clothing with distinctive anarchist slogans and symbols, tight trousers, boots, and bands’ t-shirts, the style popularized by Crass, the punk band which advocated environmentalism, animal rights, direct action advocacy.
This style, created by UK bands in Bristol during the late 1970s and the early 1980s, is characterized by a do-it-yourself (DIY) disheveled look of poverty and squatting. Crust punk is, by far, the more common punk style in the U.S. and includes the following:
- Torn hoodies.
- Skinny black jeans.
- Black trousers.
- Bum flaps.
- Bullet belts.
- Black denim vests.
- Sewn on dental floss.
- Heavy cargo or work pants held up by hemp or string.
- Imitation leather skirts.
- Band t-shirts.
- Camouflage shorts.
This style is more popular in the UK and has heavy Scottish or Irish influences including highland dress, kilts, Tam O’Shanter design caps, peacoats, Trilby hats, grandfather shirts, tartans, sneakers, donkey jackets, tuques, hoodies, and flat caps.
Vintage western checked shirts, cowboy boots, acid washed jeans, motorcycle jackets, overalls, culottes skirts, worker boots, trucker hats, big buckled-belts, fringed vests, and shirts sewn with glittering sequins.
Velvet or leather jackets in black, flared trousers, gray suits with a slim fit, long-pointed and sharp-toed boots that look like medieval footwear known as “winklepickers,” satin dresses, waistcoats, and shirts with “flyaway” collars..
Leather, metal studs or spikes, chains, military boots, denim, kutten vests, plaid bondage trousers, jackets with patches sewn on or painted with political statements or musical tastes, DIY trousers and shirts with rips, tapered pants, and bullet belts.
Dark Cabaret/Gypsy Punk
The emphasis of this style is “fashionable trash” for the women who wear it. This style includes garter belts, tailcoats, fedoras, fishnet stockings, shawls, and traditional gypsy dresses. Men wear battered bowler hats, heavy boots, and tweed vests.
Band hoodies, dress shirts, thin ties, pyramid studded belts, black baggy pants, blazers, wristbands, Converse shoes, skinny jeans, hoodies with cartoon prints, keffiyehs, and tartan pants fitted with eyelets and studs all characterize pop punk fashion.
Fans of ska punk fashion mix various punk styles and wear Harrington jackets lined with the Royal Stewart tartan, Doc Martens, “pork pie” hats, tank tops, polo shirts, checkerboard patterns, thin ties, hoodies, and mohair suits.
Punk Fashion for Children
Can punk fashion extend to children? Apparently, yes, as specialty stores have become sources for outfitting babies, toddlers, and young children with all things edgy, cool, and alternative, punk, in other words, ranging from clothing and footwear to accessories. Punk rock baby clothes come in rompers, tutus, onesies, hoodies, jackets, tops, and bottoms.
These garments are typically adorned with rock, animal print, hip hop, rockabilly, hipster, tattoo, geek, and hippie themes, to name a few, but without the embellishments like studs, chains, safety pins, and the like which may be potentially hazardous for the little ones. Customers of punk fashion are parents who are into punk styles themselves.
With younger generations starting families, a shift in traditional baby clothing has brought new options to the fore, including punk fashion for babies. More and more children of these new generations are now dressed in hipster apparel that are not limited to baby blue or baby pink colors or lace and ruffle designs. Many online stores now offer clothing for infants and children that are anything but pastels including:
- Punk rock tops and t-shirts.
- Rocker shirts.
- Leg warmers.
- Rib visor beanie caps.
- Toddler band t-shirts.
- Skater shoes.
- Houndstooth fedoras.
Punk holds different meanings for different people. For some, punk means leftwing while it means anarchistic for others. Some just like punk music but necessarily punk fashion. Punk is really an attitude that asks questions continuously and not merely following rules slavishly. And because punk has gone beyond a music genre, you can count punk clothing to evolve further still and be around like forever.